Monday, August 03, 2015

Felled

One of the selling points of this particular development is that is it is the oldest condo development in the state, therefore, the landscaping is mature.

A great example of this are the trees scattered throughout the grounds. A couple of units east of my place, there is a majestic maple tree in the grassy space between my building and the one across the way. The tree towers over our two story building. In the spring, there is a great view of its helicopter-like seed pods floating to the ground from my living room.

We've had incredible straight line winds this summer, as various fronts pass through with sharp changes in atmospheric pressure. These winds always seem to come from the west-to-south corridor. The tree tosses quite a bit, but bends rather than breaks.

Last night we had a short, but violent storm. We actually didn't bear the brunt of it; places north had small funnel clouds, golf-to-baseball sized hail and even stronger winds.

The change in pressure did me in. I've been working on a massive headache all weekend. Tylenol barely touches it, but does a great job upsetting my stomach. This morning, I woke up with the worst headache of my life, plus a rather violently upset stomach. Ack. Called in, went back to bed.

Only to be woken about an hour and a half ago by the dulcet sounds of...a chain saw.

I had checked this morning, before going back to bed - the tree was still standing, there were no branches on the ground, it hadn't been struck by lightning.

It appears, from the length of time they have been working and the manner in which they are going about it, the goal is to take the tree entirely down. I'm a bit in shock. I know the neighbor across the way (in front of whose unit the tree sits) hates it for the messy seed pods. All of us have to deal with the shower of leaves in the fall. But surely, if they were worried about parts coming down, a good trimming would take care of it?

If it does come down, it will be doubly expensive for me. Not only will I help pay for the removal through the association fees, I will have to buy curtains for the huge, irregularly shaped (read: need to order custom) windows above the patio doors. When the place was painted two years ago, I took down (and tossed out - they were in bad, bad shape) the sheers that covered those upper windows. There is great light until about mid morning, when the sun moves behind the maple tree. Without the tree to shade things, the sun will come in those windows blazingly hot until at least noon - longer during the summer. In addition to the need to buy curtains, I can expect my air conditioning bill to go up until I actually get some.

Then there are the displaced birds (the squirrels, nasty tree-rats, can go hang). We have a fairly wide variety of songbirds nesting in the area, including in that maple. Makes me kind of glad I didn't put up a feeder this year, if they all go elsewhere.

Given the dysfunctional state of our HOA board, and their less than amicable relationship with some of the homeowners, I'm not quite sure what to think about this. Was there actual damage I didn't see? Was the removal planned ahead of time, due to interior damage? If it was scheduled ahead of time, why couldn't the board be bothered to give us some sort of notice? (oh wait - duh, I know the answer to that one)

Meantime, my head is about to fall off or explode, or both, thanks to the noise. There's no telling how long this will go on, and the two guys who are working on it don't have any sense of urgency at all.

If you need me, I'll be the one curled up in the fetal position in the corner furthest away from that side of the condo, a pillow or two over my ears and a blanket over my head.

Update: Well, it's still standing, but everything within twenty feet of the ground has been stripped away. They also butchered a much smaller tree closer to my unit - truly a little thing, and they way they trimmed it, it will either die off, or fall over because it is so lopsided now. The guys are in the process of spreading all sort of dirt under the maple - wheelbarrows full in an awfully wide swath. A lot of good it's doing - the wind is blowing at a steady sixteen miles per hour, and most of the dirt is just flying all over. I'm afraid that if I poke my head out to get the mail, I'll have an asthma attack. One can only hope they will at least wet it down before they leave. One would also assume they intend to sow grass seed.



Saturday, August 01, 2015

Whooo's having fun on a Saturday

In spite of getting a full night's sleep, I woke up a bit out of sorts, about quarter to six (that is actually pretty late for me; four-fifteen is the usual time). After messing around for a bit, I went back to bed for an hour.

Didn't help the mood.

A houseful of groceries did, though. Fried up some potatoes, onions and mushrooms and topped the mess with a couple of scrambled eggs. The two cups of coffee probably helped.

The plan was to spend a good part of the day sorting things to give away. Easter Seals is picking up the third Wednesday in August. Since it finally is August, I'd better start sorting.

Eh. Didn't feel like it.

I wandered into the studio, intending (really) just to put away everything from the Crazy Cabin project. But part of the "mess" is a stack of fleece cut into various sizes, meant to be made into little blankets for Project Night Night. I'm waiting for the fabric I ordered for a quilting job for a friend, so...

Owls.

First owl. The color of the thread on that bottom
piece isn't as pink in real life.
Second owl. Who says the owl has to be "owl"
colors?
There are seven of these  little fleece blankets all told. Once all the embroidery is done, I get to play with the binding attachment for the machine. In theory, you feed your long bias strip into the attachment, which screws into the bed of the machine. The gadget double folds the strip and lines it up perfectly around the edge of your quilt or fabric as you feed it into the machine, sewing it all down. By the time I finish binding seven of these (not to mention turning 28 corners), I should be an expert.

Project Night Night includes a blanket, a book and a stuffed animal in the totebags for the kids. When I saw this, how could I resist?

These are pretty small - in spite of what it looks like,
there are only two sizes, the larger of which
finishes at nine inches tall.
The fabric I'm using for the applique is all bird themed - feathers,birds, swirly things and more feathers. I've more than enough to make a stuffed owl for each blanket.

This is all an "in between" project - something I work on when I'm not actively trying to get something else finished. Each owl takes an hour or so (I actually simplified the second one, reducing the number of applique pieces by three) plus the time to set up, cut stabilizer, chose fabric and find thread. I've a number of these kinds of filler projects; getting some of them done will decrease the volume of stuff in the studio.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Through the Prism July - Crazy Cabin

Back in April I joined a quilting challenge. You haven't seen anything posted about it, because I missed the deadline for the first two months thanks to busier than anticipated...things. But I'm on track, have July done and a plan to finish up the May and June miniquilts.

The rules are simple:

Purchase: Special ROYGBIV fabric Bundle from Cherrywood Fabrics

What: One block-inspired challenge will be issued each month for seven months. Use that block, plus ONE fabric from your special ROYGBIV bundle, then add anything else you need to create a 20” finished quilt by the month's deadline.

- Each final project should read predominantly as one color in the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, or violet.
- A ROYGBIV hand-dyed color bundle of fabric must be purchased from Cherrywood Fabrics
- You must use ONE fabric from the ROYGBIV challenge bundle in each quilt
- Any other fabrics from your stash may be added.
- You must use the month's block
- Quilts must finish 20” square.

Challenges must be completed by each monthly deadline.
You can participate in as many monthly challenges as you’d like (one, or all seven!) but each challenge quilt MUST be started and finished within that month.

For July, the block for the challenge is the traditional Log Cabin block. The chances are you have seen this block: a square center (most traditionally red or yellow to represent the hearth) is surrounded by "logs", added to each side in sequence around the center. Because of that, each log is slightly longer than the one on the previous side, giving a stair-step diagonal to the block. It can be colored many different ways, arranged even more. To see a good overview of the kinds of traditional quilts possible from this block, simply Google "traditional log cabin quilt" and take a look at the images.

The basic block looks like this:
The block, however, is only the "inspiration", a jumping off point, if you will.

One of the reasons I joined this challenge is to be able to play a bit. With all that's gone on in the last few years with moving, the change in responsibilities at work, the sewing studio being the last room unpacked, the learning curve of the new machine and the need to finish projects meant for others, my skills seem to have acquired a layer of rust. Time to sand some of that off.

The starting point of my primarily indigo quilt was a rough, five sided...blob. Yes, that is a technical quilting term. I hacked off a piece of the Cherrywood indigo (the hand dyed fabric has a beautiful hand, soft and suede-like; I would love to make a skirt for winter out of it (lined, since the cotton alone is a bit light for our Wisconsin winters)). From that odd center, I proceeded with a traditional log cabin assembly, adding a "log" to each side in turn around the center. A few logs were cut a bit on the diagonal after attaching them, just to keep things interesting.

Once the piece was large enough, I cut a 16" finished square, and added 2" borders of the Cherrywood fabric all around to bring it up to 20" square.

Then the fun started. I spent a couple of hours playing on a scrap quilt, trying out the various decorative stitches on the Bernina 830. Hundreds are available. I tend towards decision fatigue when faced with too many choices; I put about two dozen samples on the practice piece, and chose my final stitches from that limited pool. At the same time, I pulled out a number of different types of thread: polyester embroidery thread, shiny rayons, a metallic or two, a variegated cotton.

Each seam is covered by a decorative stitch, crazy-quilt style. The final border has a free motion, ribbon-like curl motif (and boy, am I rusty on that, too). The binding, true to the scrappy look of the cabin, is pieced from several of the "log" fabrics, joined with a diagonal seam.

It's a slightly non-traditional log cabin block, done in a crazy quilt style.

What better name than "Crazy Cabin"?
In process. The decorative stitches serve as the quilting,
holding the top, batting and back together.

Full quilt, finishing at 20" square. A little bit of orange
to brighten it up a bit.

Close up of some of the stitching.
To see more of the incredible quilts, plus take a look at the May and June entries, go to Persimon Dreams and click on the links in the right sidebar.

Lion still on the loose

Yep, the combined forces of the Milwaukee Police and the Dept of Natural Resources, plus who knows who else, have been unsuccessful in capturing lion that is (supposedly) on the loose in the northern section of the city.

So far, the sequence goes a little like this: Law enforcement didn't take the report(s) too seriously; law enforcement finally decided to take a good look; one cop thought he saw a "lion-like" animal; it could be a pet lion that escaped (apparently, we are one of six states that still allow these kinds of "exotic" pets - all I know is that my HOA would not approve a lion); a "witness" saw the lion with a cub; they finally put out live traps yesterday - but remove them overnight; law enforcement is blaming "noisy onlookers" for lack of progress on capture.

Oh - and early on, a pitbull was shot in the leg because an overzealous neighbor thought it was the lion. Not only is that guy's aim off, his whole thinking process is messed up (why yes, shoot at the giant, toothy, wild animal - that will surely make it lay down and give up!).

But if nothing else, the fiasco has spawned a number of rather funny jokes on social media.

MKE Lion: I will definitely be leaving town before the NFL season kicks off. Lions don't fare well in Wisconsin, as any Packers' fan can tell you.

MKE Lion: (speaking of the New Berlin Lion's Club stand at the State Fair, starting soon) I can't wait for the State Fair. It's my favorite event of the season. Please stop by and support this worthy cause and get some delicious Wisconsin Corn on the Cob. I plan on ducking out after my volunteer shift to check out the appetizers, I mean contestants, yeah that's it, contestants... at the pig races.

Thank heavens the Milwaukee PD has a "no high speed pursuit" policy. ‪#‎cantcatchme

As long as there aren't any former Minnesota dentists on the Mke police force I'm feeling OK here.

I'm confused so we are supposed to #eatlocals?

And oh, my, the photoshopped pictures! That lion not only gets around, he's apparently visited many local tourist attractions, even going to Wolski's and getting the famed "I closed Wolski's" bumper sticker on his, um, "bumper".

On the serious side, a whole lot of public-money expense has gone into this fruitless search. When (if) they catch this thing, the next task is to figure out how it came to be loose in the city. If this is indeed an exotic pet that got away (or was released - can you imagine the grocery bill to feed one of these?) - you can bet the owner will eventually be charged with something or other, fined and ordered to repay the costs of the search.

Hopefully, this will be resolved soon. It's using a lot of media space that could go to more serious subjects.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The complexities of modern life

My niece graduated from college this spring, just a month or so after her thirtieth birthday, after taking years of night school while working full time. She has a double major in business management and human resource management.

Apparently, finishing school has left her...stressed. Second guessing whether or not she truly wants what she thought she did from life. On Facebook tonight, she posted the following:

"It's amazing what a conversation with your parents can do to make you less stressed."

I couldn't help myself. My reply:

"LOL, given the state of the modern family, I kind of have to ask - *which* parents, parental groupings or combination of random parents?"

Let's see if I can explain this in a coherent fashion. My sister and my nieces' father divorced shortly after my niece was born. My sister remarried, and her new husband is a great guy, who happened to have a daughter from his first marriage about the same age as my niece. The girls spent every other weekend together growing up, and have a close, wonderful relationship. So this is parental set #1 and #2 - biological parents and mom and stepdad.

My niece's biological dad also remarried. Twice, actually. My niece has half siblings from both those marriages (honestly, the kids all get along great together, and my current brother-in-law and my former brother-in-law hung around together for a while (neither had known the other prior to all this)), and one ex-stepmom and and a current stepmom on that side. These are parental sets #3 (dad and stepmom #1) and #4 (dad and current stepmom).

Can you wonder why I had to ask?

Everyone involved, as far as I can tell, get along fairly well (it's worth noting my sister and BIL have been married over 25 years now, I think, and former BIL and his current wife have been together somewhere between 15 and 20 years). It may be a little insane, but it works, much better than many similar situations do. The whole family is extremely blessed in that.

I can't help but feel a bit of melancholy, though. As well as it works, as supportive of each other as everyone can be, this isn't God's design for an ideal family. Obviously it can work, but it works in spite of the complications of the relationships that spring from broken relationships, not because of them. As we continue to travel down the road away from the values that God had enumerated in Scripture, away from His ideal, the complexities arising from what we have created are going to collapse under their own weight. And that won't be pretty.

Oh - the answer to my question? Mom and stepdad.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Perfect weekend in progress

Just before I left work yesterday, I said on Facebook (I know, but it was the last thing I did before I shut down the computer) that the weekend plans were "sew, read, nap and grill - not necessarily in that order". By the time dinner arrived yesterday, I had accomplished three of the four.

It's just too hot to fuss with the grill.

Today was a repeat of yesterday, with a trip to Starbucks thrown in. And sleeping a bit later than usual. And a cobbled-together-from-leftovers dinner that was extraordinarily good.

The "reading" is the newest book by Kathy Reichs, the forensic anthropologist/author upon whose books the series Bones is loosely based. Temperance Brennan is considerably different in the books, personality-wise: less socially inept, more of a risk-taker, a recovering alcoholic. Originally, I had planned to wait until today to start the book...yeah, I started Thursday night. I will easily finish it tomorrow. So nice to take uninterrupted time to read.

The "sew" portion of the weekend's entertainment is on a small (20 inch square, finished) quilt for a challenge in which I'm participating. We are given a specific block each month to use as an inspirational jumping off place. In addition, we all bought a packet of seven hand dyed fat quarters, one each in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Our quilts must use one of those fabrics (our choice which color to use when) and "read" as mostly that color.

July's block is a traditional log cabin block. I'm using the indigo, a fairly deep blue, as my primary focus. It's been interesting just taking off and sewing on this one. I'm usually much more of a planner, but once I figured out my concept, the best way to do the thing was just to do it. I will say that this particular work has me playing around with different types of thread (the new machine handles metallic threads beautifully) and many of the hundreds of decorative stitches loaded in the machine. Oh - and there may even be a bit of embroidery before I'm done. Pictures will be posted on July 31st or August 1st (pictures need to be put on the challenge website by 10 p.m. the 31st; I may not get a post up here until the 1st).

Two naps taken so far, one "official" (take out the contacts, get in bed, set the alarm for no more than an hour and a half) and one "unofficial" (sit down in the recliner, close my eyes "for a moment" and wake up anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours later). Both were thoroughly enjoyed.

Off to bed soon. There are things that I need to do tomorrow, but I'd still like to repeat today as much as possible - sew, nap, read.

Can't think of a better way to pass the weekend.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Midweek musings muttering musings

Trying to keep a positive perspective.

- The little matching game I play online to clear my mind has a "daily spin" feature that allows you to win coin to use in the game. For the first time in years of playing, the spin came up with 1 million for me. It's the little things, folks.

- I smell like the beach this morning, and I'm not sorry. My poor dry feet needed the world's best body lotion this morning, and I must have been over generous in application.

- Shall we start a pool on when Donald Trump will go away? It can't be too soon.

- There are rumors of a lion loose on Milwaukee's north side. Well, based on the video, it looks more like a bobcat, but the first report said "lion". The police and animal people searched for a couple of hours when it was first reported Tuesday, but found nothing. You would think there would be other, um, signs. Still, it's nice to make the national news for something silly for a change.

- Found a small console table and a storage ottoman at Target on sale (and it was cheap inexpensive, starter "furniture" to begin with). The table has three little drawers, while the ottoman has plenty of room inside. These two will complete the bedroom transformation, as I ditch the rest of the bedroom set (dresser and chest of drawers) and declutter the clothes. The goal is to move the armoire to the bedroom (two medium drawer and two tall shelves) to house underthings, socks and nightwear, along with a couple of pair of jeans. The shelves will still house my quilts and smaller fabric pieces. The extra set of sheets and the vintage pillowcases will go in the storage ottoman.

I think this will work, if I'm diligent about culling. There is plenty of room to hang things in the walk-in closet, though all of that will be culled as well. The ultimate goal is to create a clutter-free, happy but peaceful space. There really will be pictures when I'm done, most likely around mid-August, as that is when Easter Seals is picking up the boxes of clothes I'm donating after culling.

- Vintage pillowcases - did you know I sort of collect them? "Sort of", because once I have them, I actually use them. They are generally made from a much thicker weight of cotton or linen than any but luxury linens are today, holding up very well to both regular use and laundering. Besides, they are the only vintage linens I can afford.

- Only two more "summer" Friday afternoons off. While I will miss the free time, part of me is relieved that I won't be required to be at the office by 6:30 a.m. anymore. The plan is to rearrange my schedule a bit, establish new habits and get more sleep. According to the Fitbit, I'm averaging just over six hours of actual sleep a night, which is not enough. Seven or seven and a half is optimal for me. Less, on a continual basis, makes me cranky.

- The Italian beef I made for card night? Delicious. Bonus - there is enough left for sandwiches for lunch this week, with additional for the freezer.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cajun Burgers

Although I've talked about them a number of times, I realize I've never posted the recipe for the cajun burgers I had for dinner tonight. The kick they provid isn't going to burn the inside of your mouth, but will wake you up. You should note that the longer the burgers rest after they are mixed and formed, the stronger the taste will become.

Cajun Burgers

2 pounds ground chuck
1 green pepper, minced
1/3 cup green onion, minced (I just use a yellow onion)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic salt (if you only have garlic powder, use about 2 1/2 tablespoons and make the rest up with salt)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix it all up, then form into 6 patties, being careful not to compact them too much. Put on a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours of overnight.

Cook whatever way makes you happy (too hot to grill out tonight, so pan fried in the cast iron skillet).

These freeze very, very well. I can pull a couple out and they will thaw in an hour or so, while I'm figuring out what to have with them.